London’s exclusive Garrick Club votes to allow women to join for first time in 193 years

The Garrick Club at 15 Garrick Street, London
The Garrick Club at 15 Garrick Street, London Copyright Wikimedia Commons
Copyright Wikimedia Commons
By Christian Moore
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A London gentlemen’s club which boasts an illustrious membership, including senior politicians, judges, and even the King, has finally voted after almost two centuries to allow women to enter its elite ranks.


Club members, including writer and actor Stephen Fry, assembled yesterday at the Garrick, located in London’s theatre district, to debate and vote on the gender equality issue.

The members, many of them wearing pale pink and green club ties reminiscent of marshmallow flumps, debated the question of women’s membership behind closed doors before putting the matter to a vote.

It passed by an almost perfect 60:40 split.

Why now?

Pressure to admit women to the Garrick has been mounting for decades. But recently, calls to address the stark inequality intensified after the Guardian revealed in March the previously secret list of Garrick members.

Among them were Roger Moore, the head of the UK’s foreign intelligence service MI6, deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, and none other than King Charles. (Moore resigned soon after the revelations were published.)

UK Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden was revealed to be a member of the exclusive club
UK Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden was revealed to be a member of the exclusive clubLeon Neal/Pool Photo via AP

The list also comprises an astonishing portion of members of the judiciary, all the way up to the supreme court, as well as active politicians.

The majority of the members were found to be older than 50 and predominantly white.

The immitigable perception therefore emerged that the business of the British establishment was being done behind the Garrick’s closed doors, and at the exclusion of demographics historically excluded from political decision-making processes even when these are carried out in public.

Not just about politics

Founded in 1831 and named in honour of 18th century actor David Garrick, the club has historically attracted a wide range of men from the arts, including AA Milne, who left a portion of the rights to his Winnie the Pooh books to the Garrick.

According to the list leaked by the Guardian, it also enjoys the membership of prominent actors, including Succession stars Brian Cox and Matthew MacFadyen, Hugh Laurie, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Garrick Club member Brian Cox attends GQ's Men of the Year Party 2023 in LA
Garrick Club member Brian Cox attends GQ's Men of the Year Party 2023 in LAChris Pizzello/AP

At the executive level, members also include the Royal Opera House’s chief executive, and the chairs of both the Royal Ballet school and English National Opera.

Much of the furore surrounding the male-only policy has stemmed from the dismay felt by women in the arts upon learning that their male colleagues have been hobnobbing in exclusive settings. This has led to fears that decisions regarding commissioning, casting, or much-coveted funding are being made beyond the view of due process mechanisms

The Garrick’s website still references its thespian lineage - while also pointing to the virtues of exclusivity - with a choice quote from Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby on the homepage: ‘It is a hopeless endeavour to attract people to a theatre unless they can be first brought to believe that they will never get in.’

But now that over half the population have finally been told that they can indeed get into the Garrick, the inevitable question arises: will they even want to?

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